New research

Climate change made England's record hot year in 2014 at least 13-times more likely

  • 01 May 2015, 10:30
  • Robert McSweeney

Last year was England's hottest year since records began over three and a half centuries ago, the Met Office revealed in January. Now a new study shows that this record-breaking year was at least 13-times more likely because of human-caused climate change.

And as our influence on the climate becomes more evident in the future, we can expect the chances of record hot years to increase further, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Hottest year

Stretching back over three and a half centuries, the Central England Temperature (CET) record is the longest instrumental record in the world. It provides daily and monthly temperatures averaged over a roughly-triangular area between London, Bristol and Lancashire.

With an average temperature of 10.93C, 2014 topped the list as England's hottest year, just edging ahead of the 10.87C recorded in 2006. Since the difference between the two numbers is smaller than the error associated with these types of measurements, scientists can't be absolutely sure that 2014 was the warmest year - but it's the most likely to be.

Cet -record -2014

40 highest-ranked years from warmest to coldest of the Central England Temperature record. Colours show the time period of each year, and height of the bar shows the uncertainty in the measurement. Source: Dr Ed Hawkins of Reading University.  Source: Dr Ed Hawkins of Reading University.


Climate change threatens one in six species with extinction, study finds

  • 30 Apr 2015, 19:00
  • Robert McSweeney

The risk of Earth's species becoming extinct will accelerate as global temperatures rise, new research shows.

After reviewing more than one hundred scientific papers, the study finds as many as 16% of plant and animal species on land and in the oceans would be under threat with four degrees of warming.

Climate change could even overtake habitat loss and degradation as the main cause of extinctions, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Extinction risk

The rate at which plants and animals are becoming extinct is now a thousand times higher than before humans inhabited the Earth.

Habitat loss is the principal cause of extinctions, as forests are cleared and urban areas expand. But a new study, published in Science, suggests that climate change could soon become a key threat to species around the world.

A warmer world could have many different impacts on plants and animals, not least by pushing temperatures beyond species' physical tolerance. Shifting seasons can affect breeding patterns, and hot days may mean animals have less energy to search for food.

Changes to rainfall patterns may affect availability of water and freshwater habitats. These changes could conspire to influence how much food a species can access, and what predators and diseases it is exposed to.

The combination of habitat loss and climate change is likely to intensify their individual impacts on different species, Prof Joshua Lawler, who wasn't involved in the study but who is an author of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, tells Carbon Brief:

"[H]abitat loss and fragmentation will make it harder for species to move to suitable climates, and climate change will drive human migrations and shifts in the distribution of cultivated lands which will, in turn, reduce habitat for species."

In the new study, Prof Mark Urban from the University of Connecticut aggregates the results of 131 studies on extinction risk to give a global picture of the risks posed by climate change.

Exponential rise

The current target for international climate policy is to limit global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial temperatures. Even with this level of warming, we can expect to lose around 5% of species, the study finds.

But as you can see in the graph below, the predicted extinction percentage increases as global temperatures rise beyond the 2C limit.

Urban (2015) Fig2

Predicted extinction rates from climate change rise with global temperature. Blue bubbles show individual studies, and their size shows how many species the study assessed. Source: Urban (  2015).


UK must reform climate policies to become global leader, say economists

  • 30 Apr 2015, 17:20
  • Sophie Yeo

A steep reduction in UK emissions over the last two decades disguises a number of ineffective government policies, argues a new report from the London School of Economics.

In a briefing on the key environmental policy issues ahead of the 7 May general election, three academics from LSE's Centre for Economic Performance look at the policies that aim to reduce the UK's emissions and examines their successes and failures.

The headline figures suggest an impressive record on tackling climate change in the UK, say authors Ralf MartinJonathan Colmer and  Antoine Dechezleprêtre.

By 2012, the UK's emissions had fallen by 25% on 1990 levels, meaning that it met its international target under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as its legally binding domestic target.

This makes the UK a leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions among major economies, with countries such as the US and Japan still emitting more than they were in 1990.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 At 11.50.09

Greenhouse gas emissions trends for selected countries. Source: UNFCCC and Global Carbon Budget 2014/LSE CEP report